By Rob Foss, VP of Revenue, LIbDib - It’s been nearly three months since I joined LibDib and I am now seeing the present and future of wholesale distribution unfold. I’m watching new alcohol brands launch and win big. Private label wines and spirits are a growing trend.
Rob Foss joined LibDib in April 2020 as VP of Revenue with 30 years of wine and spirits industry experience. Most recently Rob was a key member of the team at Young’s Market Company, where he served as Vice President of Digital Commerce. Throughout his 22 year tenure at Young’s, Rob oversaw all channels of trade including on-premise, off-premise, chain, club, national, regional, and digital/B2B.
It’s been nearly three months since I joined LibDib and I am now seeing the present and future of wholesale distribution unfold. I’m watching new alcohol brands launch and win big. Private label wines and spirits are a growing trend. B2B e-commerce is taking off. All of this has been happening despite a pandemic. I started during COVID and still haven’t met the majority of my team in person; they continue to do amazing work remotely. At LibDib, it feels like we’re surrounded by success.
I’ve seen the difference firsthand. LibDib’s foundation is built on a revolutionary model. It’s so easy to use and has so many benefits; the rest of the industry is rushing to catch up.
It’s much like the early days of Amazon. Technology adoption is key and the tide has been turning in the wine and spirits industry. People are now seeing that technology can solve many of our industry’s challenges— especially when it comes to three-tier distribution. LibDib’s effective solution addresses so many supplier, buyer and distributor pain points. Although we’re still in the early stages of this technology evolution, This new model has potential to significantly boost brands’ success. I’m also seeing it play out day-to-day in the brands who are LibDibbing.
I’m discovering that there’s SO many opportunities for brands to work with LibDib in addition to their regular distributors (RNDC/Young’s being my preferences of course). The truth is LibDib offers faster speed to market than a large distributor, giving suppliers the ability to innovate and launch new brands much faster. Because LibDib is lean and nimble, we can move quickly and suppliers are able to push the envelope and position their brands as they see fit. The combination of LibDib and RNDC/Young’s is truly powerful. Any supplier, any product now can have three-tier distribution, with RNDC/Young’s or through LibDib.
It’s a shift in prioritization that works on a larger scale. LibDib is a home that really allows suppliers (Makers as we call them) to give attention to smaller, exciting wine and spirits brands. With LibDib, Makers determine which products have priority, because you do the selling and marketing through your social media campaigns, people on the street and on the LibDib Site. You are in control of their destiny.
It’s an approach I recognize from my time at Young’s Market Company when we launched “OrderYoungs.com.” That technology allowed Buyers to “shop the whole site” by displaying more of the book. It allowed buyers to dive deeper and make assessments based on their needs, not the needs of the distributor.
The difference for Makers is who is telling their brand story, it’s not the distributor Rep, it is now the brand itself who is selling the brand. Their marketing and sales team maintain their buyer relationships through LibDib. Makers who understand the importance of telling their story through LibDib are thriving and growing (a recent case study we did on Penelope Bourbon is a good example of this).
That’s exactly what big suppliers may not be seeing when they first hear about LibDib. It’s why I’m excited to show them how things can be done the LibDib way.
The traditional distribution model pushes the idea that “bigger is better” always and without question. It’s the way alcohol distribution is set up. However, that’s not always the best strategy for many brands— especially emerging brands that need a “supplier’s touch” to create buzz and get them up and running. Even development of larger brands can benefit from the LibDib model. That’s why RNDC has been LibDib’s biggest cheerleader and why RNDC, Young’s and LibDib are all working together to incubate new products and give all wine and spirits brands a chance. In the beginning it may be better to use LibDib for some time and then move over to RNDC or Young’s.
LibDib streamlines that process. It allows makers to spend money directly to sell products, as opposed to paying a distributor to sell (and make key decisions around how to execute that sales push). Through the LibDib platform, Makers control prioritization, pricing, and every other aspect of their brand. Internal sales teams can drive the sales directly, as opposed to being presented as part of a deeper book. Unlike traditional sales avenues, the platform is active 24/7. While most distributors have salespeople operating during normal business hours, LibDib sees a large portion of products sold at nights or even on weekends. LibDib allows customers to purchase when they want, which makes for an optimal buying experience on their end. Don’t get me wrong: sales reps are absolutely necessary and a huge part of business. Great salespeople should always be out there building relationships, running product promotions, and arranging tastings.
But the reality is, thanks to Amazon, customers are used to making purchases online at their leisure. Wine and liquor distribution is the outlier. It’s why LibDib bringing the industry into the future is so important. All distributors should be selling this way.
I’m enjoying start-up life. It’s fast-paced and rigorous, but so much fun. LibDib is a smaller and flatter organization than other places I’ve been, which makes it leaner and faster. LibDib’s smaller team means less red tape and bureaucracy. We’re able to adapt more quickly and make snap decisions. It means ideas that come into play can literally be integrated overnight.
The energy they’ve harnessed here is truly like lightning in a bottle; it’s the kind of company an executive would be lucky to work for once in their lifetime. I’ve been working for a large distributor for the better part of 22 years and learned everything I know about distribution, and LibDib feels like a true breath of fresh air, keeping the 3-tier system in place by reimagining it.